Masan painting (masan chitrakala). Photo: Courtesy
Masan painting is one of the primordial art. The origin of the art form covers the parts of India’s Assam, Meghalaya, northern West Bengal, Bihar, eastern Nepal and northern Bangladesh.
The word ‘masan’ comes from ‘shashan’ (Bengali word of Hindu crimination ground). Rajbonshis, an ethnic group, are the main patron of the art form which is also known as ‘masan chitrakala’ in Bengali.
Indian artist Madhusudan Das brings the ‘masan painting’ as a modern art form. It has enormous cultural and religious importance among the Rajbonshi community, according to a press statement.
‘Rajbonshi people used this art form for performing masan puja (worship) which hardly exists today as many of them have changed their way of life. However, some senior people are still carrying out this puja on a limited scale,’ said the artist, who graduated from Kala Bhavan of Visva Bharti University in Santiniketan, West Bengal.
‘For preparing research paper on contemporary arts of Indian Subcontinent, I visited the houses of Rajbongshis to collect data about the stunning masan painting. I also spent some days with them and tried to learn about it. Thus, I got inspired to draw this art and their lifestyle,” the artist added.
Explaining the background of the art, Das said, ‘The craftspeople who prepare the colourful masan painting are called malakar (garland maker). They make different motifs and structures with shola (a wild plant). They also use handmade brushes and natural colours on the shola motifs which have special significance among the Rajbongshi people. They use the motifs for curing of sick people, celebrating the birth of babies and making topor (headwear for the groom) and sithi mukut (headwear for the bride) in the marriage ceremony.’
‘After coronavirus pandemic, I shall arrange a large exhibition on masan painting highlighting its cultural values and artistic significance. Besides, I will work for preserving this ancient art in the museums so that art enthusiasts can get creative ideas and zeal to work on it,’ Das added.